Collaboration in Minecraft

What’s so compelling about Minecraft? Why is it so popular? This presentation from Lucas Gillispe at looks at some aspects of Minecraft that makes it engaging and successful for his students, including:

  • Flexible Sandbox+Survival Game 
  • Locally Hosted Servers
  • No Subscription Fees
  • Appropriate for all ages K-12

These features help explain why Minecraft is popular with kids and educators – but it’s also a gaming environment that stimulates and supports collaboration. How does Minecraft accomplish that? Let’s start by taking a look at the core Social Actions in Minecraft (click here to learn more about this analytic technique)

In survival mode, players COMPETE with the system to survive the night – which adds urgency and excitement to the play experience.  There is no built-in PVP – no battles or leaderboards – no assigned missions or goals. The emphasis is on exploring the environment, learning the system,  and choosing your own goals to pursue. Players compete with the SYSTEM – not with other players – and that sets a tone.

Players EXPRESS themselves by building structures, either alone or with others. In survival mode, structures are functional – but the amazing complexity, size and detail of structures that people build in Creative mode are all about self-expression. And technically-savvy enthusiasts can express themselves by creating and sharing MODs that extend the Minecraft gameworld.

Whenever a new Minecraft game is launched, players EXPLORE a vast, procedurally-generated landscape that’s different each time. There is no polished built-in tutorial – players learn the system by jumping in and building structures to survive the night. They can also explore the rules and world by talking with their friends, logging into private servers, exploring Wikis, blogs, and YouTube channels, and even attending MineCon – the annual gathering for Minecraft fanatics.

Minecraft has no built-in social structures like teams and friend networks – yet Minecraft players COLLABORATE in a variety of powerful ways. On locally hosted servers and LANS, players build vast, complex structures together – and  sometimes form spontaneous role-based teams to tackle large projects. On Wikis, blogs, websites and message boards, players share stories and tips, and upload elaborate videos detailing the amazing things they’ve learned to build from the rich substrate of Minecraft blocks. A growing movement of educators are using Minecraft to teach math, physics, history – and they’re assigning projects and challenges that require students to collaborate.

So after digging in, we can see that Minecraft has no bult-in rewards or missions that drive collaboration – it’s an emergent property of the core gaming systems and social actions available to the players. I also think it’s a testament to restraint – what the developers LEFT OUT is as important as what they included.

What do YOU think? Do you play Minecraft? If so, how do you like to play – solo, or with other people? What do you think makes Minecraft such a great collaboration platform?